Visual Culture: Afrika Bambaataa's Vinyl Collection Catalogued in Gallery Exhibit
Hip-hop fans are offered a rare opportunity to get an intimate glimpse of Afrika Bambaataa‘s 40,000 piece vinyl collection while it is being cataloged at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in NYC. The vinyl artifacts collected by Bambaataa – the man considered the godfather of hip-hop – have been moved to the West Village gallery from several storage units in order to be prepared for donation and ultimate exhibition at the Cornell University Library. Archivist and curator Johan Kugelberg – the man behind the Cornell University Library Hip-Hop Collection – explained the significance of the items to The Village Voice:
“It’s literally the history of hip-hop unfolding itself in front of your very eyes through vinyl artifacts,” says archivist and curator Johan Kugelberg. Kugelberg spearheaded the Cornell University Library Hip-Hop Collection, the largest gathering of items documenting the birth of hip-hop in New York City and its expansion around the globe.
“Under careful supervision, we have emptied three of Bambaataa’s storage spaces and literally a field excavation,” Kugelberg says. “Identifying anything from documents with scripts to old tapes to Soulsonic Force costumes, you know, the whole thing. All of this needs to be inventoried and identified before it goes to Cornell. The record collection is arguably the single most important component of it because it is the history of hip-hop culture in sound being gathered by, in my opinion, the most important person in the history of hip-hop.”
The painstaking process of cataloging the collection during the public archiving has allowed those curious about the culture to see what is arguably the single most important set of artifacts specific to hip-hop in a setting that – while it does not involve a remote location or the remnants of antiquity – could be the closest thing to a major excavation modern music has ever seen. In some ways it is certainly the hip-hop equivalent of the opening of Tut’s tomb. The detailed process of preserving the items is a serious undertaking to which Kugelberg and his team of archivists have committed five hours per day, five days a week for one month in order to complete. He briefly detailed the amount of work involved:
“It’s 40,000 records that need to be entered into spreadsheets. Does it have comments? Does it have a press release? Is it signed by the artist? Is it a test pressing or acetate? We have some duplication in the collection. And those vinyl records need to be digitized, stabilized, inventoried, and all that kind of stuff.”
The Afrika Bambaataa Master Of Records Open Archive has been open to the public since early July and will remain open daily from noon to 5:00 PM until Saturday, August 10th at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York City. Keep your eyes open for news of the exhibition’s formal opening at Cornell University. Props to the godfather Afrika Bambaataa for sharing this gem with the world. Scroll through the photos from Waxpoetics and Egotrip at the top of the page to get a taste of the exhibit. See below for gallery address.
Gavin Brown’s Enterprise
620 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10014
Spotted at VV